March 10, President Brian Casey sent out an email encouraging the Colgate community to stay on campus during Spring Break and asking all traveling students to return to campus on March 23 to engage in classes online for three weeks, in accordance with the practice of social distancing. Colgate group chats and Facebook pages were quickly became bombarded with by students’ dissatisfaction with Colgate’s decision. March 11, Casey clarified in a follow-up email that Colgate’s decision was based on the period a COVID-19 carrier can be asymptomatic.
Hysterical complaints and questions were everywhere. The campus was filled with conflict and incomprehension. People calling for everyone to stay on campus confronted people who still wanted to travel. Some canceled their travel plans. Some still decided to travel. A considerable amount of polarized arguments arose. Some of those students choosing to stay on campus frowned upon those who were traveling, out of fear that these travelers would bring COVID-19 back to campus. Many students who had travel plans weighed their pros and cons. Others who still wanted to travel felt guilty and shamed by others. Colgate was filled with disagreement, conflict, and anxiety. Few people around me could focus.
On March 12, Casey announced a change of Colgate’s decision and advised students who are able to return home or have other means of accommodation to leave campus by March 22. Class instructions and discussions would be conducted online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Dissatisfaction continued.
Conflict and incomprehension filled the campus. Some were happy to return home and have two weeks of spring break. Others were melancholic about not being able to see one another for a long time. Some were anxious about having online classes at home. Many were scared about catching the Coronavirus. Some could not decide whether to stay on campus or to go home.
Some people stayed in their dorms to practice social distancing. Some people began to meet with as many people as possible before they were unable to. Some people packed to leave campus as soon as possible. Many disagreed with many. Again, there was much conflict and anxiety on the surface and bubbling underneath.
In the following few days, news content overflowed with growing COVID-19 infections. Social media became divided into those who promoted social distancing to the best of their ability and those who invalidated the anxieties around Coronavirus. Again, tension and conflicts were everywhere.
It is natural to feel tense during times like these. Coronavirus is directly impacting many important parts of our lives. It’ is affecting our health, our school, our work, our connections with other people, our potential career opportunities, among countless other challenges, etc. There is no question that a disruption like this would stir up intense emotions. However, these intense emotions can too easily blind us from the community behind the Coronavirus outbreak.
Some people are at significantly higher risks when it comes to Coronavirus. Some people are unemployed due to because of social distancing and company downsizing. Some small businesses are struggling to stay afloat going bankrupt. Despite knowing all of this, it can still be hard for us to see that everyone is struggling to go through COVID-19 and that we are not the only ones suffering from it. Decreasing job opportunities, a contracting economy, health threats, emotional turmoil––these problems are experienced collectively as common to society as a whole. Others might be going through just the same emotional toil and anxieties as we are, and maybe to different intensities. All of these struggles are valid and important to respect.
It is easy to become so overwhelmed with our own emotions that we do not recognize the struggles of others. However, COVID-19 is not an individual problem. It is a condition to our entire community and to many different parts of the world. When you are struggling, know that there are so many others around the world who are with you. When you feel angry, know that so many others around the world are just as emotionally vulnerable. Do not start a fight when you can build a community with care. It is precisely around times like these that our care and kindness towards one another would yield a positive difference.